Mr. W. G. Grottendieck, a Dutch explorer had been travelling extensively through the jungles of Sumatra (in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia) with 50 Javanese coolies searching for oil. Upon his return, he wrote, "I found my home had been occupied by somebody else and I had to put up my bed in another house that was not yet ready, and had just been erected from wooden poles and... kadjang," a type of dry, broad leaf measuring two by three feet in size and commonly used as roofing on Sumatran homes at the time. The leaves, he explained, were arranged overlapping each other and could stop anything from penetrating through, most importantly rains. Imagine his surprise to wake up just past one to find the small black rocks falling onto the floor near his pillow.
In the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 12-260, is published a letter from Mr. W. G. Grottendieck, telling that, about one o’clock, one morning in September, 1903, at Dortrecht, Sumatra [sic. Grottendieck was originally from Dortrecht, Holland], he was awakened by hearing something fall on the floor of his room. Sounds of falling objects went on. He found that little, black stones were falling, with uncanny slowness, from the ceiling, or the roof, which was made of large, overlapping, dried leaves. Mr. Grottendieck writes that these stones were appearing near the inside of the roof, not puncturing the material, if through this material they were passing. He tried to catch them at the appearing-point, but, though they moved with extraordinary slowness, they evaded him. There was a coolie boy, asleep in the house, at the time. “The boy certainly did not do it, because at the time that I bent over him, while he was sleeping on the floor, there fell a couple of stones.” There was no police station handy, and this story was not finished off with a neat and fashionable cut. I point out that these stories of flows of stones are not conventional stories, and are not well known. Their details are not standardized, like “clanking chains” in ghost stories, and “eyes the size of saucers,” in sea serpent yarns. Somebody in France, in the year 1842, told of slow-moving stones, and somebody in Sumatra, in the year 1903, told of slow-moving stones. It would be strange, if two liars should invent this circumstance – And that is where I get, when I reason (Fort, 1941, p28-29).
The stones that fell upon Grottendieck apparently did so without puncturing the roof of his hut, but also fell with a lack of urgency, as if they scoffed at the laws of time and space. Nor was this the only instance of slow-falling stones raining down indoors. As was his way, Fort mused on the similarities to other stories, but reasonably pointed out that remarking upon such a strange nuance (particularly in cross-cultural circumstances) should lend a puzzling credence to the tale. Grottendieck was no slouch, and included a wealth of details, including drawings, to document the incident, down to the architectural specifics of his temporary residence. On his return to Europe in 1906, Grottendieck dispatched a letter to the editor which was published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. In Grottendieck’s own words:
Dordrecht. January 27th, 1906…It was in September, 1903, that the following abnormal fact occurred to me. Every detail of it has been examined by me very carefully. I had been on a long journey through the jungle of Palembang and Djambi (Sumatra) with a gang of 50 Javanese coolies for exploring purposes. Coming back from the long trip, I found that my home had been occupied by somebody else and I had to put up my bed in another house that was not yet ready, and had just been erected from wooden poles and lalang or kadjang.
The roof was formed of great dry leaves of a kind called “kadjang” in Palembang. These great leaves are arranged one overlapping the other. In this way it is very easy to form a roof if it is only for a temporary house. This house was situated pretty far away from the bore-places belonging to the oil company, in whose service I was working. I put my bullsack and mosquito curtain on the wooden floor and soon fell asleep. At about one o’clock at night I half awoke hearing something fall near my head outside the mosquito curtain on the floor.
After a couple of minutes I completely awoke and turned my head around to see what was falling down on the floor. They were black stones from 1/8 to 3/4 of an inch long. I got out of the curtain and turned up the kerosene lamp that was standing on the floor at the foot of my bed. I saw then that the stones were falling through the roof in a parabolic line. They fell on the floor close to my head-pillow. I went out and awoke the boy (a Malay-Palembang coolie) who was sleeping on the floor in the next room. I told him to go outside and to examine the jungle up to a certain distance. He did so whilst I lighted up the jungle a little by means of a small “ever-ready” electric lantern.
At the same time that my boy was outside the stones did not stop falling. My boy came in again, and I told him to search the kitchen to see if anybody could be there. He went to the kitchen and I went inside the room again to watch the stones falling down. I knelt down near [the head of my bed] and tried to catch the stones while they were falling through the air towards me, but I could never catch them; it seemed to me that they changed their direction in the air as soon as I tried to get hold of them. I could not catch any of them before they fell on the floor. Then I climbed up [the partition wall between my room and the boy’s] and examined [the roof just above it from which] the stones were flying. They came right through the “kadjang,” but there were no holes in the kadjang. When I tried to catch them there at the very spot of coming out, I also failed. When I came down, my boy had returned from the kitchen and told me there was nobody. But I still thought that somebody might be playing a practical joke, so I took my Mauser rifle and fired 5 sharp cartridges into the jungle from [the window of the boy’s room]. But the stones, far from stopping, fell even more abundantly after my shots than before. After this shooting the boy became fully awake (it seemed to me that he had been dozing all the time before), and he looked inside the room.
When he saw the stones fall down, he told me it was “Satan” who did that, and he was so greatly scared that he ran away in the pitch-dark night. After he had run away the stones ceased to fall, and I never saw the boy back again. I did not notice anything particular about the stones except that they were warmer than they would have been under ordinary circumstances.
The next day, when awake again, I found the stones on the floor and everything as I had left it in the night. I examined the roof again, but nothing was to be found, not a single crack or hole in the kadjang. I also found the 5 empty cartridges on the floor near the window. Altogether there had been thrown about18 or 22 stones. I kept some of them in my pocket for a long while, but lost them during my later voyages. The worst part of this strange fact was that my boy was gone, so that I had to take care of my breakfast myself, and did not get a cup of coffee nor toast! At first I thought they might have been meteor-stones because they were so warm, but then again I could not explain how they could get through the roof without making holes! (SPR, 1906, p260-266).
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